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Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world
Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

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6 Critical consumption

Image of a pile of slips of paper with 'What', 'Where', 'When', 'Why' and '?' on them.
Figure 4 Information overload

In Week 5 you explored your information landscape. As part of this, you learned some tips and techniques for finding and filtering information quickly, and dealing with information overload. You were introduced to two frameworks (PROMPT and CAN) which help you ask the right questions of information and people you come across online. Some useful starting points were highlighted, including Wikipedia. Although Wikipedia is not regarded as a reliable academic source, it can give a helpful overview of a topic. You just need to be aware of its limitations.

You had the opportunity to apply your learning to some real-life scenarios faced by Manuela, Michael and John. Throughout this course they have each been developing their own ‘trustometer’: the ability to decide which sources you can trust in any particular context.

In Week 7, you found out how the information landscape for Manuela, Michael and John has evolved through doing this course. They are using some of the same sources as before, but in different ways. For example, they are making more use of social media to keep up to date with things they are interested in. They are also using their research skills to move forward with their career aspirations.

By putting into practice the frameworks for evaluating information, they have also become more confident about deciding who and what they can trust online.

Research online

Being able to carry out research online is a very useful skill and part of learning to study independently. It will help you when preparing assignments and to back up your arguments when discussing study topics with others, whether that’s online or face-to-face.

In this course, you have mainly focused on searching the internet. However, not all information is freely available on the open web. Some of it is hidden in company intranets or online subscription resources.

If you decide to study at university, your university library is a key place to find information. Online libraries, such as the Open University’s, make available articles, books, images, music and videos, as well as many other types of resources on all kinds of subjects. By getting to know your online library you can:

  • find information for assignments from a variety of sources that you would not otherwise be able to access
  • find different viewpoints on a subject
  • read the full text of the books and articles that might not be freely available on the internet
  • be confident that the information you find is of a high standard, because it has been written and reviewed by experts in the field.

A US survey of teachers (Purcell et al., 2013) found that 91 per cent of teachers surveyed reported that ‘judging the quality of information’ is the top digital skill students need for the future.

In earlier weeks, you learned how to evaluate information you find on the web. Although the quality of information you’ll find in a university library is high, you should still always question what you read. As you progress with studying and get to know your subject, you will become aware of different schools of thought and develop your own opinions. Your critical thinking skills will help you to question what you come across in all sorts of other situations too, including the workplace.

Activity 4 Developing discernment and expanding your information landscape

Timing: 20 minutes

Think about the advice you gave to Manuela and Michael in Week 7 on finding information and resources to help them move forward with their career aspirations. Is there any advice you could use to help your career? Make a note of the advice and decide how you could put it into practice.

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Does any of this advice apply to you?

Refer back to the evaluation criteria (CAN and PROMPT) you were introduced to in Week 5 and the notes you made in your Digital plan at the time about points you wanted to remember.

The CAN and PROMPT evaluation criteria are designed to remind you of the key questions to keep in mind when judging the quality and reliability of information. Now that you have worked through this course, you may have formed your own ideas about how to question the sources you come across online. Have a go at creating your own set of evaluation questions, with a suitable abbreviation that you will remember.

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